After an admirable first full season with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019-20 and another impressive performance in the shortened 2020-21 season, Canes right-wing Martin Necas has gone cold.
It has been over a month since Necas scored his last goal in the team’s Jan. 15 win against Vancouver. There was another month between that goal and the one that preceded it in another Canucks matchup, though this one resulted in a Canes loss. December served as a high-point for the 23 year old right-wing, though that isn’t saying much. The month resulted in a season-high three goals for Necas, which he matched in November.
He barely got away with a goal in the first month of the season, scoring his only goal of October on Halloween. Through November and December provided some hope for a third-consecutive successful season for the up-and-coming Hurricane, the new year has served as a memory of his early-season struggles.
Goals scored isn’t the only area where Necas has experienced difficulty. The player also has a tied career-high 20 penalty minutes, a record he will likely break before the season comes to an end. His plus/minus score, which peaked at 20 last season, has fallen to a 7. Though still admirable, it serves as a significant drop from that of last season.
So, what could account for this seemingly unexpected change in Necas’ performance?
It’s hard to say. Necas was out briefly with an upper-body injury that he sustained during the team’s December 18 matchup against the Kings, but was back less than two weeks later. The following month, he entered the COVID-19 protocol. Together, these two events resulted in a lack of consistent gameplay for Necas in December and January.
This could partially explain his poor performance, but over the two months when he was absent due to injury and illness, he still appeared in 19 games. So, Necas had plenty of chances to make his mark; he just failed to do so.
Pressure about the impending end to Necas’ entry-level contract could also be affecting his performance. Necas was a 2017 first-round pick for the Hurricanes, and his entry-level contract will expire at the end of the season, providing the Canes with the opportunity to bid the right-wing farewell. In a February 14 interview, Necas assured that he was not concerned about his contract ending and that you’ve got to “battle through” tough times.
Head coach Rod Brind’amour also mentioned that despite Necas’ numbers not being where they want them to be, he has had some great moments and opportunities that didn’t go in. Despite this, it’s hard to ignore that Necas will become a free agent when the season ends.
Whether it be due to inconsistent gameplay as a result of injury and illness or pressure related to the end of his contract, Necas has gone cold. This doesn’t seem to be of great concern to the right-wing or to Brind’amour, but it is something Necas must work on to assure his contract with the Canes gets renewed at the end of the season.